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Mr. Gordon Prentice: Changes in public policy have never resulted automatically in compensation being paid. If that were the position, when we changed the law on anything under the sun, people would be knocking on the door of the relevant Minister pleading for compensation. Let us say that there was a change in the law on drink-driving, the limit was reduced and some publicans lost trade--publicans would tell Ministers that they wanted compensation.
The right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), as the then Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, presided over the BSE catastrophe. The entire head deboning industry was wiped out. The heads of animals were cut off, and they were of no use to us in Britain because we do not eat cheek pouches. However, in France they are a great delicacy. The pouches were turned into a pate in France, and that kept an industry running in Britain.
The head deboning industry went down the pan and the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham swept to one side pleas for compensation. I would give greater credence to pleas from those on the Opposition Front Bench for compensation if they could point to a record of providing it when they were in government, of compensation being given as a result of changes in public policy.
Mr. Hogg: In substance, the hon. Gentleman is right. Head deboners were not compensated, and I have always been troubled by that decision, which probably was wrong. However, I was also responsible for firearms legislation at the end of the 1980s. The hon. Gentleman will remember that owners of large-magazine, self- loading rifles were compensated. I was glad to play a part in that process.
Mr. Prentice: BSE is slightly more relevant to the debate than self-loading firearms. That brings me to my point, having been prompted by the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier). I believe--I am sure that the view is not shared by any Opposition Members--that diseased animals should not be fed to hounds. That is wrong. Have we learned nothing from the catastrophes and the chaos of the past decade? It is wrong to feed diseased animals--not animals that have broken a forelock or have tripped, become concussed and then died--to hounds. Diseased animals should be incinerated.
I am surprised that the hon. and learned Member for Harborough made no reference to the Burns report as new clause 1 is all about the disposal of fallen stock. At paragraph 3.59, on page 62, Burns refers to the EU waste incineration directive, which introduces new requirements for hygiene and incinerators. Because of the requirements of the new directive, Burns says:
Mr. Garnier: Before the hon. Gentleman accuses me further of misleading the House, would he care to read the entire paragraph that he has cited? It adds, in terms, that the hunts have incinerators that they might find it expensive to upgrade. Diseased fallen stock are not fed to the hounds; it is those that have died as a result of breaking a bone or other injury. I said that when the hon. Gentleman intervened on my opening remarks; it may be that he has forgotten that, but if he wishes to make a point
Mr. Prentice: I was going to continue my point about diseased animals by referring to the Phillips report--not, thankfully, all 16 volumes of it, but just volume 1. Hunt kennels and knackers' yards earn a multiplicity of references throughout all 16 volumes; if the hon. and learned Member for Harborough has the report to hand, he might consider page 86, paragraph 438. As far as hunt kennels were concerned, there were no adequate checks between 1991 and 1996 on whether hounds were fed specified risk material. They could well have been, and I suspect that they were. The regulations in place at the time--the 1982 regulations--required knacker meat to be treated as unfit for human consumption and to be stained, but there were no provisions in respect of specified risk material.
Mr. Soames: Let me try to reassure the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice), who seeks always to find a way to denigrate hunting or show that its practitioners act improperly. No hunt, no huntsman and no hunt staff would ever feed to their hounds anything that it would be improper for them to eat. I know that the hon. Gentleman's pea-like brain will find the proposition impossible to understand, but those people love their hounds and would never do any such thing.
In his ignorance, the hon. Gentleman does not understand that hunt kennels are approved premises for rendering animal by-products, including carcases, under the Animal By-Products Order 1999. Diseased stock would be disposed of by hunts absolutely properly.
I support the proposals in new clause 1 on the disposal of fallen stock. The views of the hon. Member for Pendle on hunting and the countryside are way off-beam, compared with what really goes on. However, the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) made a reasonable, sensible and careful case, as he always does. In the past two years, for example, the market in bull calves collapsed and it was impossible to sell them. Had it not been for the hunt service putting those animals down humanely and disposing of them, the countryside would have been a shambles.
I remember when my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), the former Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and I served together at MAFF. We were concerned about the tidiness of the countryside and the possibility of farmers burying stock, and the remains of diseased animals leaching into the water supply. That caused us extreme anxiety. I remember the seriousness with which MAFF dealt with the matter and tried to produce a satisfactory proposal.
The countryside would have been a shambles, were it not for the hunt service. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) said, the hunts have worked with farmers in every county at a time of great difficulty for farmers. When we consider the pressure that farmers are experiencing as a result of the wicked, awful foot and mouth outbreak, as my right
Hunting with hounds provides a genuine agricultural benefit to farmers, in addition to pest control. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough pointed out, the collection from farms of fallen stock--that is, unsaleable dead farm animals--or the collection and humane killing of injured or sick animals is an extremely important service.
The Minister of State, Department of Social Security, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), then an Agriculture Minister--and a very good one, incidentally--stated in a written answer--[Interruption.] I hope that the Under-Secretary will be good enough to do me the courtesy of listening to what I am about to say. If he could spare me a moment of his valuable time, instead of conferring with Deadbeat 2000, I should be grateful.
The parliamentary written answer to which I want the Under-Secretary to pay attention was from his right hon. Friend the Member for Perry Barr, then a Minister at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. It stated: